Five years ago, you may not have heard of pay-per-click advertising. Now, it may represent the cornerstone of your marketing strategy because it is both affordable and effective. However, no one can blame you for casting a wistful eye at two media stalwarts – radio and TV – especially if your business is making money and your marketing budget is finally stretching along with your aspirations.

Despite the prevalence of the internet, many small-business owners view radio and TV advertising as the brass rings of advertising mediums because of their long, vaunted history, their credibility among consumers and a wide reach that builds brand awareness.

Still, if you're new to the mediums, you're smart to look beyond these charm factors and assess the differences between the two.

Tune In to the Appeal of Radio

Smartphones have imbued radio and TV with a quality they didn't enjoy in previous generations: mobility. While people can stream audio and video on their phones, radio boasts some advantages that TV usually cannot muscle in on.

Namely, radio ads:

  • Are more affordable
  • Force the listener to create mental images through sound, volume, tone and special effects. Some people would say that this extra mental energy gives a message extra staying power.
  • Play into a small-business owners' need to have their messages heard multiple times. Radio spots are usually sold in bundles, and regular radio listeners typically tune in for at least several hours a day. As a result, they are more likely to hear a radio ad, especially if a campaign is long-lasting.
  • Are targeted in nature, allowing small-business owners to select programs that their “ideal customer” listens to – or at least one that matches the customer's demographics
  • Are relatively quick and easy to produce and air, meaning that an ad can run on relatively short notice

Visuals Have Always Defined TV

Ever since that "little black box” became commonplace in many American homes in the late 1950s, television ads:

  • Pack an unparalleled ability to stir a wide range of emotions based on the simple but powerful merger of sight and sound.
  • Allow businesses to capitalize on this merger by demonstrating how a product works. It is an overstatement to say that TV can serve as a substitute for personal selling, but it can augment it and give it added credibility.
  • Can be reproduced or replicated on a business website, sell sheets and other visual mediums for marketing symmetry.
  • Enjoy a prestige factor that has barely been diluted by choices spread among network, cable and local programming.
  • Offer the promise of greater attention and retention, at least if you subscribe to the theory that people are most comfortable in their homes, which is also where they view most TV ads.

Radio, TV Ads Demand Precision

Despite the differences between radio and TV ads, they share commonalities that are helpful to keep in mind during the creative process.

Even if you wisely place the production in experienced, professional hands, you'll probably be asked to render an opinion at various junctures – and for good reason: You're the boss, and no one knows your product like you do.

Remember that effective ads:

  • Open with gusto in a memorable, attention-grabbing way. Hooks are universally important to ads, including those that appear in print
  • Tell a compelling story or a vignette – a story with a purpose
  • Emphasize benefits over features. The latter are important, but they lack meaning – and resonance to listeners and viewers – without understandable benefits.
  • Confine yourself to one primary message per ad. If you have multiple messages, create multiple spots. They may not be the most affordable creations you've ever undertaken, but you can take steps to ensure they're as effective as they can be for your small business.